Christian Voice National Director Stephen Green spoke at a meeting of the Challenging Orthodoxies Society in Manchester last night, alongside Guy Otten of the Manchester Humanist Society and Shahid Saleem.
The meeting, chaired by Catriona Watson, was called ‘Christmas Unwrapped – are national celebrations of Christian festivals still appropriate in a multicultural society’? By a happy coincidence, it took place on the very day the Office for National Statistics released the 2011 census figures on religion.
The blurb for the event said:
‘Our University Calendar is dictated by Christian religious festivals, as are the calendars of the majority of institutions, businesses and individuals in the UK. Semester two doesn’t finish until the end of January yet we have a four week break just a couple of weeks before, schools take two weeks off at the end of December when everybody could have an extra two weeks in the sun in July.
‘What about those who don’t celebrate Christmas but still have to take time of work for a festival they don’t believe in? Christmas decorations are paid for by councils and institutions but what do those who celebrate Eid or Hannukah get for their taxes?
‘Challenging Orthodoxies Society is exploring whether nationwide Christmas celebrations are still appropriate in a multicultural nation. Would a move towards treating all religious holidays equally be the forward thinking actions of a secular state or is questioning such a well-established cultural tradition simply a symptom of ‘christianophobia’ and too much focus on being politically correct.’
To a meeting sadly depleted because the Politics Philosophy and Economics Society decided to hold their annual Christmas party on the same night, Stephen Green said:
According to the census figures just published today, there was a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 per cent to 59.3 per cent) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 per cent to 25.1 per cent) in England and Wales, between 2001 and 2011. There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent).
Of the other main religious groups, 1.5% of people identified themselves as Hindu in 2011; 0.8% as Sikh; 0.5% as Jewish; and 0.4% as Buddhist.
That means just 8% of the population have religious cultures which are not Christian, but I don’t know any who are actively campaigning against Christian festivals in the UK. Of course, if we had as many Muslims in the general population as there are in Tower Hamlets (36%) it would be different. Indeed, in Tower Hamlets it is different. Muslims are in every political party there and they have a Muslim majority which cuts across party affiliations.
Perhaps we all ought to come back here in 2042 and see what it looks like then. But as things stand today, Muslims cannot demand the whole population celebrate Eid Al Fitr from a population base of less than 5%.
Actually, the talk about ‘multi-culturalism’, the restriction on advertising oin libraries by a Christian environmentalist group, all the barmy ‘winterval’ stuff, comes not from religious minorities, but from secularist activists in diversity units using the presence of faiths other than Christian in the UK as a stick with which to beat the Christianity they so hate with a passion.
It’s not just the UK. The decision of the National Agency for Education (NEA) in Sweden to ban all references to ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ during school Advent services is out of the same atheist box.
We have 8 bank holidays in the United Kingdom. Five out of the eight days are based on Christian festivals, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitsun, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day). And so they should be.
New Year’s Day, May Day and the August Bank Holiday are atheist, so three out of eight days in a year seems to flatter the atheist population somewhat.
The fact is, this is historically a Christian country with a Christian monarch and a Christian constitution.
Our laws still derive from the laws of Alfred the Great, who based his ‘dooms’ on the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, all of which were endorsed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament has more of a societal emphasis and the New Testament focuses more on the individual. Nevertheless, a common thread that all societal institutions, individual, family, state, corporate worship, relate to and derive their authority from Almighty God runs all the way through, from Genesis to Revelation.
The fact is, Christianity is an unashamed force for individual and societal good throughout the world.
Look at how many hospitals are named after saints. London has St George’s, St Bartholomew’s and St Thomas’s, and Tommy’s neighbour Guy’s was also a Christian foundation. In Manchester there is Saint Mary’s. In Bradford, St Luke’s. In Oldham, All Saints. In Ashford Saint Peter’s. The Knights Hospitaller provided succour to travellers throughout these islands and the world in the middle ages. The Church provided for the poor for centuries until the modern state decided that was its responsibility.
I have yet to hear of someone leaving a life of crime, packing up drugs, stopping self-harming, getting out of prostitution, by becoming an atheist. But I know many people delivered from these things by the power of Jesus Christ. Their testimonies are all over the web.
I have yet to hear of an atheist starting up an orphanage at his own expense, as the Christian Thomas Barnado did in the 1860s.
Or of an atheist campaigning at his own expense, unsupported by public money, against slavery, as William Wilberforce did in the early 19th century.
Or to limit factory and working hours, set up schools for the children of city slums, champion the cause of chimney sweeps’ boys and improve housing conditions for ordinary men and women, as the Christian philanthropist Lord Shaftsbury did in the med nineteenth-century.
And of course these Christians went about their philanthropy precisely because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ we celebrate at Christmas. God was interested enough and involved enough in our human condition to become one of us at a point in history. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, ‘God with us’, healed the sick, comforted the bereaved, even raised the dead, taught the good news and commanded men to repent.
He set an example for us to follow. He told Christians they would be judged and rewarded in the kingdom of God not by how many prayers they made, but by how closely they kept faith in him, kept his commandments and dealt with their fellow human beings. He was among us as one who serves.
That is the heritage Christ Jesus left behind, that is why we should celebrate his birth at Christmas, his liberating death and resurrection at Easter and why we should fight to preserve his faith in this United Kingdom.
So finally, I can do no better than to wish you all a Merry Christmas.
Luke 22:25-27, Matt 25:34-40, Gal 6:9 and 2Thess 3:13
Please note that persons wishing to comment on this story must enter a valid email address. Comments from persons leaving fictitious email addresses will be trashed.